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Planning setback for badgered builder

11th April 2002 - The Scotsman by Frank O’Donnell

A development in Edinburgh must provide gates and access for the shy, nocturnal creatures.

DEVELOPERS hoping to build five luxury houses in the grounds of an A-listed mansion have been ordered by planning officials to include living quarters for badgers in their designs.

Miller Homes was yesterday granted planning permission to build in the grounds of Belmont House in Murrayfield, Edinburgh, an Italianate-style mansion designed by William Playfair in the 1820s.

But councillors have granted the scheme the go-ahead with the unusual condition that a network of gates and ladders is included to ensure the badgers can roam freely throughout the site. The badger gates - similar to cat flaps - will have to be built into the fence of the Ellersly Road site to ensure the nocturnal creatures can wander from their sett to their feeding ground.

Miller will also have to take other steps to protect the inhabitants of nine badger setts on the development site. A subterranean network of pipes, tunnels and pits will have to be blocked off at night to ensure badgers do not become trapped.

If the animals do tumble into them, a series of "badger ladders" will also be installed, at a 45 degree angle near any openings, so the animals can escape.

Badgers are, in fact, the best protected animals under British law with a special Act of Parliament dedicated to its preservation, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Under the act it is an offence not just to kill or injure a badger but even to own one - alive or dead - to damage its sett or to disturb it when in residence.

In practice, this means you cannot use machinery within 60 feet of a sett or do any work, even by hand, within 30 feet, without a special licence.

SSPCA Superintendent Mike Flynn said it was becoming increasingly common to make planning permission for new developments conditional on badger provision.

He said: "The badger is fully protected and you can lose planning permission if you don’t comply. At a recent development in Edinburgh’s Davidson Mains, the builder was ordered to provide every householder with a badger information pack."

Mr Flynn said accommodating badgers was not generally an expensive process and work was not usually delayed.

However, a massive £160,000 had to be spent on badger protection when the road link between the Edinburgh City Bypass and the M8 was constructed. This including building a subterranean network of tunnels to allow badgers to cross.

In 1997, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, John Gummer, cited the possibility of disturbing a local badger sett as a reason for refusing to allow work to research a nuclear dump site near Sellafield.

Badgers are not the only wildlife which can delay development. Bats, butterflies and greater crested newts are among the creatures protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The former chief constable of Central Scotland Police, William Wilson, was threatened with prosecution after he took action to remove 2,000 pipistrelle bats that took roost in his Dunblane home. Scottish Natural Heritage recommended he be prosecuted even though he had applied for a licence to remove them.

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